As voters in the north-east of the country go to the polls to elect three MEPs to the European Parliament, with hopes that northern nationalists can increase their representation from one to two seats, here’s an interesting snippet that has been studiously ignored by much of the Irish and British press. Despite demands to do otherwise, the Democratic Unionist Party has refused to reject the support of the Loyalist Communities Council (LCC), an umbrella group closely linked with a number of British terrorist factions in the Six Counties, including the formerly legal Ulster Defence Association, the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Red Hand Commando. While Robin Swann, the leader of the rival Ulster Unionist Party, dismissed the call by the LCC for pro-union voters to support explicitly unionist parties, ignoring the likes of the possibly transfer-friendly Green Party and Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, the DUP declined to comment.
The militant groupings behind the LCC, which is currently led by a former chairperson of Swann’s UUP, played a crucial role in the 2017 general election in the north, its activists and supporters campaigning for the DUP in a number of marginal constituencies. This effort contributed to the election of at least one Democratic Unionist MP to Westminster and possibly swung the polls in favour of other DUP candidates. Similar activity took place in the recent northern local government elections when suspected British terrorists made very public appearances with DUP members during campaigning in the city of Belfast and other areas. The importance of the relationship between Arlene Foster’s Democratic Unionists and the violent fringe of unionism was underlined during the negotiations to restore the power-sharing regional executive and assembly at Stormont, when loyalist terrorist leaders effectively ended a last minute deal between the DUP and Sinn Féin that had the backing of the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom. Which illustrates where the true power lies in some unionist communities and electoral blocs.